New Faculty: Why They Selected Berkeley

by Fernando Quintero

For proof that the University remains one of the world's premier institutions of higher learning, just take a look at the latest crop of new faculty.

"We have an extraordinary and distinguished group of exciting new faculty--and some real stars," said Carol Christ, vice chancellor and provost.

Christ said the fact that many campus departments were able to hire more of their first-choice candidates than at any other time in recent history was another sign of Berkeley's continued pre-eminence.

About 50 new faculty are expected to be hired for the current school year. In addition, Christ said 10 positions have been allocated to the campus's Exceptional Opportunity Program, which recruits faculty from underrepresented groups such as women and minorities.

Christ said vacancies left due mostly to early retirements were being filled in departments that exhibited the greatest need. For fall 1995, Christ said the University would mount "an even more robust recruiting program," hiring between 50 to 60 new faculty.

Here is what some of the new faculty members said about why they chose Berkeley:

Sherry Ortner

Professor of Anthropology

"Berkeley has a powerful anthropology department. It's always been a top department, and it seems to be on the move right now," said Ortner, who was recruited from the University of Michigan. "There is a solid, established core of anthropologists and a lot of good, young people doing good work here."

As with several other new faculty members, Ortner also found attractive the University's emphasis on comparative and interdisciplinary study.

"I'm interested in the linkages with the humanities, particularly with historians and cultural studies," said Ortner. "It's a great university--plus it definitely has better weather than Michigan."

Jose Saldiva

Professor of Chicano Studies

Saldiva, a former associate professor of literature and cultural studies for nine years at UC Santa Cruz, said he came to Berkeley because he felt somewhat isolated where he was.

"In my department, called 'boards' in Santa Cruz, I was the only one doing Chicano studies," said Saldiva. "I was able to come to a university where in my own department alone there are five people doing what I do. To be affiliated with such distinguished colleagues and to be able to come and strengthen an already solid program in multicultural American literature is the best kind of set up I can think of."

Maxim Kontsevich

Professor of Mathematics

Courted by both Princeton and Harvard, Kontsevich is a young international star the mathematics department feels fortunate to have attracted. One eminent scholar praised him as being among the most talented mathematicians to come onto the scene in the last five years.

In addition to having friends in the Bay Area, and praising the local weather, Kontsevich said the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute on the hill above campus is much like the very active Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany, which invited him to visit for three months in 1990.

Berkeley's mathematics department ranks among the best in the world, and was recently ranked at the top in this country along with Harvard, Princeton, and MIT.

"The faculty here are friendly, with a great diversity of interests," said Kontsevich.

Susan Ubbelohde

Associate Professor of Architecture

Like many top-ranked departments on campus, architecture has a reputation Ubbelohde said was "one of the best."

The former associate professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota said she was especially attracted to the diversity of academic pursuits within the department.

"There is so much interesting and important study that goes on in the department. And the support is also there, which is critical," said Ubbelohde, whose interests include looking at solar and energy-efficient architecture.

Jorge Klor de Alva

Professor of Comparative

Ethnic Studies and Anthropology

A 1974 Berkeley grad, Klor de Alva refers to the University as "any academic's desired destination."

The former professor of anthropology at Princeton counted off the reasons for coming to Berkeley, beginning with "the possibility of working with first-rate colleagues in the development of the next phase in the comparative study of race, ethnicity, and nationalism."

He cited the "great enthusiasm" exhibited by Christ, Chancellor Tien, William Simmons, dean of Letters and Science, and others.

He praised "Berkeley's dynamic capacity to generate new ideas, its willingness to nurture movement in novel directions, and its profound commitment to socially useful scholarship."

And last, Klor de Alva was impressed with the "great weather, food, and cultural diversity" of the area.


Copyright 1994, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail